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Question 2:
The Orion constellation is visible in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter sky. List any other constellations that you are aware of and identify the season of the year when the constellations are visible in the night sky. Why do you think some constellations are visible at only certain times of the year?

Student responses will vary. Responses may include some of the following constellations:

The winter constellations include the zodiacal constellations of Gemini, the Twins; Cancer, the Crab; and Leo, the Lion. Other winter constellations include Canis Major, the Big Dog, and Hydra, the Water Monster.

The spring constellations include the zodiacal constellations of Virgo, the Virgin; Libra, the Scales; and Scorpius, the Scorpion, as well as Hercules, the Hero.

Summer constellations include the zodiacal constellations of Sagittarius, the Archer; Capricorn, the Sea Goat; and Aquarius, the Water Bearer. Other familiar summer constellations include Pegasus, the Flying Horse, and Cygnus, the Swan.

The fall constellations include the zodiacal constellations of Aries, the Ram; Taurus, the Bull; and Pisces, the Fishes. Additionally, Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, and Perseus, the Hero, are visible in the autumn sky.

There are five constellations that are very close to the North Star. This means that they are visible in the northern sky all year long. These include: Ursa Major, the Great Bear; Ursa Minor, the Small Bear; Draco, the Dragon; Cassiopeia, the Queen of Ethiopia; and Cepheus, the King of Ethiopia.

Students may incorrectly identify the Big Dipper or the Pleiades as constellations, but they are “asterisms” – subsets or supersets of constellations. For example, the Big Dipper is part of the constellation Ursa Major and the Pleiades are found in Taurus.

Different constellations are visible at certain times of the year due to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Each day our sky changes a little bit, which causes some constellations to disappear from sight and others to appear. Since we see different parts of the sky each season, we also see different constellations each season.

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